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Article - 'Map Design 101' by phantomditto

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 9, 2003

Blurb

A great article describing more effective town, world and dungeon planning

Body

Alright, all you RM2kers out there, do your maps suck? Do they need a little pickup? Are they good, but you're trying to make them better? Well listen up Johnny, because we're going to make them SPIFFY!

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....................TOWNS
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Lovely! Let's make a town for our hero to start off in, and let's see if we can make it any better than Average Joe's Mundane Town. First off, let's see the complete list of everything that CAN be in a town.
Hero's House
Inn
Shops:
(sub)Weapons Shop
(sub)Armor Shop
(sub)General Store
(sub)Magic Bazaar
(sub)Airport (where you get the airship)
(sub)Seaport (where you get the boat)
NPC Houses
Cave
Seashore
Castle
Castle Wall (around the city)
Trees (lots or little of these, depending on what kind of city it is)
Bar/Tavern
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And much more, I suppose, but let's not get it too complicated. Now, for design.

A small town such as the first one is still a town, so make sure you have NPC HOUSES! This is the major thing that most people forget! Distribution of houses should be almost random, but not quite.
The amount of houses should be something like as follows:
Small Town: 5-10
Medium town: 10-15
Large Town: 15 or more
This is so as to give the sense of a lot of different places instead of copied and pasted town maps. Concerning the NPC houses, make around 4-5 be open and able to be explored, for the other ones just use a locked door. It's not necessary to make 5-20 different maps just for NPC houses. Now then.

Trees are an important part of maps, as well. Nobody wants to live in a treeless city, unless it's supposed to be that way, in which case there had better be a lot of houses to fill space up. Anyways, the size of a good tree is around 3-4 x 4-6 tiles large. Make sure the lower part of the trunk is unwalkable, while the upper part is Above Hero.
Overlapping trees is a neat little trick that helps give your maps a bit more spontaneity. Draw a tree, then draw another tree with 1x2 overlap. Aww, the overlap was deleted from the first page! Not to worry! Go into the Event Editor, and make an event where one of the chips from the first tree should be. You can choose chips out of the chipset for the event graphic, and then it's a simple matter of choosing Above Hero for Event Position, and voila! Instant layering. lovely lovely LOVELY!
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Now, you're probably saying ENOUGH WITH THE TREES, LET'S GET ON WITH IT! And too right you are, so let's get on with it! However, I shall not cover Inside map design until my next tutorial, Map Design 201, so you're going to have to put up with Dungeon design until then.
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DUNGEON DESIGN
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Aahh, the first dungeon of the game. The thrill, the suspense, the.. uhh.. dungeouneyness? Never mind ;) Simply put, you absolutely have to have a good first dungeon, or the game just won't have enough appeal for you to keep going.
Dungeons are one of the main reasons that designers often use 7 crystals, or 5 magic talismans, (talismen?) or such, so you give the player the number of dungeons in the game. But enough with the story talk, let's design it! First off the bat, here are the dungeon ESSENTIALS:
One-room Puzzles (at least two in every dungeon, hard but not impossible, use ONE room only.)
Backtracking
Entire Dungeon Puzzles (such as the raising and lowering of blocks or turning switches on and off to open certain doors. Usually not used until the last dungeon)
Enemies
In ATB systems, an item that is essential to defeating the boss
Boss Key
Map (If you know how to do it)
Compass (Just shows location of treasures and boss)
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Now then. The size of the dungeon is basically dependent on which one it is. For a first dungeon, 5 or so rooms should be sufficient, but oversimplifying leads to sloppiness. Have one one-room puzzle, a bit of backtracking, one key, and a Boss key.
About levels of monsters: Make an ideal hero level for every dungeon and make the monsters in that dungeon one or two levels above that.
From the first dungeon, keep mixing in a more backtracking and some extra puzzles for a lovely blend of banana with just a hint of sugar. lol, j/k.
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Thank you for putting up with my first attempt at a tutorial. Post if it helped! Post if it didn't help! Post if all you want to do is flame me, but I want feedback. Thank you!